Federal appeals court delivers blow to Mountain Valley Pipeline

In what environmentalists called a major victory, a federal appeals court struck down two key decisions allowing a natural gas pipeline to slice through the Jefferson National Forest.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Sierra Club and other conservation groups that challenged approvals by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for a 3.6-mile segment of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Affected woodlands are in Giles and Montgomery counties and Monroe County, West Virginia. The pipeline’s route through the national forest will also take it under the Appalachian Trail atop Peters Mountain.

During oral arguments in May, a three-judge panel raised pointed questions about the Forest Service’s acceptance of Mountain Valley’s assurances that it could control erosion and sediment caused by running a 42-inch diameter buried pipeline along steep mountainsides.

Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote the opinion. Joining Thacker in the 44-page opinion were Chief Judge Roger Gregory and Judge William Traxler; the same trio is currently considering another case in which a key approval by Virginia’s State Water Control Board is under attack. A similar ruling in that case “could mean trouble for the MVP’s route in the entirety of Virginia.”

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